Orlando Magic must keep Goga Bitadze in rotation to remain consistent defensively

Goga has averaged career-highs in minutes per game (19.8) and blocks per game (1.6). "I've got great teammates, I've got a great team," said Bitadze.
Goga has averaged career-highs in minutes per game (19.8) and blocks per game (1.6). "I've got great teammates, I've got a great team," said Bitadze. / Rich Storry/GettyImages

When the Orlando Magic signed former Indiana Pacers first-round pick Goga Bitadze in February, you could say it was a low-risk acquisition with interesting potential.

Since his arrival, the 24-year-old Georgia native has found himself in a better opportunity than he and Magic fans expected. But with Wendell Carter, Moe Wagner and others ahead of him in the rotation, minutes for Goga Bitadze were looking like they would be hard to come by.

Bitadze found himself in a "next man up" situation once Carter fractured his left hand back on Nov. 2 against the Utah Jazz. It felt like a moment that could break the Magic some.

Instead the Magic have thrived. Bitadze has stepped into the lineup and made a huge impact, making sure the team does not miss a beat defensively. And he has added enough offensively to keep defenses honest.

Bitadze has become a force for the team and critical in the early success the Magic have experienced. While Carter remains away from the team and Wagner has become vitally important as a bench scorer, it is clear Bitadze should have a place in this team's rotation.

Goga Bitadze has become a critical part of the Orlando Magic's early success this season thanks to his stout defense. As the Magic get healthier, Bitadze should find a place with the team.

He provides tons of defensive stability and that is the key factor for this team.

Since entering the starting lineup, Bitadze has started 11 games averaging 7.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in those starts. He has averaged 24.2 minutes per game (and 19.7 per game total, a career high).

His biggest benefit is on defense where he is averaging 2.0 blocks per game as a starter for the team. Opponents are finding it tough to attack the rim against him too. Bitadze gives up only 52.2 percent shooting at the rim according to data from Second Spectrum (entering Friday's game against the Boston Celtics).

That might be the worst mark among the Magic's triumvirate of big men so far this season. But it is still an incredible number and a foundation of the Magic's overall defensive strategy. It is clear Bitadze make a positive impact on defense.

The Magic have a 105.6 defensive rating with Bitadze on the floor, a mark that still trails Wendell Carter but only trails Franz Wagner among the team's current starting group.

Bitadze may have played only 18:42 in the Magic's win over the Celtics on Friday, but he still addded a block and the team still had an even 100.0 defensive rating with Bitadze on the floor (the team was at 96.0 for the game). Even if that is not how good the team ultimately played on defense, it is still an incredibly strong showing from him and the team.

He recorded five blocks in the Orlando Magic's win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday -- to go with five points and five assists. That only continues to show how Bitadze can make an impact on the game.

With Bitadze making the most of his opportunity and meshing well with both units, he has put himself in the conversation of being a legitimate rotation player on this team.

The 6-foot-11 big man brings versatility, rim protection and defense to a team that ranks among the best in the league in all defensive categories.

Coach Jamahl Mosley likes to mix his lineups at times which should allow Bitadze to see the floor with Wendell Carter returning soon and Moe Wagner still getting his minutes. Bitazde's size and athleticism allow him to be on the floor alongside other Magic backcourt players.

He is at the very least someone the team has come to count on. And he has played well enough to earn some kind of role. How Mosley fits everyone into this rotation as they get healthier will be intriguing. But these are good problems to have.

Consistency will play a major factor in how much time Bitadze will see once Carter returns.

Bitadze's shot-blocking and rim protection is arguably his best trait and most valuable asset to the Magic right now. In order for Orlando to stay on track and remain a defensive powerhouse, Bitadze will need to continue to see the court.

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Replacing 1.6 blocks per game is not easy by any means. Considering the Magic deal with their fair share of injuries, Bitadze should find himself in the rotation and an important player for the Magic as long as his recent success continues.